An Argument For The Validity of Solipsism
Solipsism is a more plausible and rational philosophy than any major world religion. It is, by any definition of rationality, almost provable.
The main general criticism of the theory of solipsism, ironically, lies in its supposed ‘improbability’. Solipsism, it should be pointed out, is indeed a very improbable philosophy. However, it cannot even approach the improbability of the traditional ‘real world’ model. In fact, it can be argued that the very fact that you are alive proves that something must, in a sense, be contrary to logic.
To illustrate this, I shall raise an extremely obvious point: if any of your ancestors, dating back several billion years, had died before reproductive age, you would not exist. If any of your ancestors had chosen not to have sex with the exact person that they had, arguably at the exact time that they had, you would not exist. The Huffington Post calculated the odds of you being alive as 1 in 10 to the 2,685,000 power – 10 with 2,865,000 zeroes after it. No sane person would believe that this happened to them, particularly when there is a reasonable alternative.
In addition to the improbability of the above scenario, there is no evidence that suggests that the ‘external world’ exists beyond personal experience (which is, arguably, meaningless, since you also personally experience dreams and hallucinations).
On the contrary, a plethora of evidence suggests that the external world does not exist. An obvious starting point would be the improbability of such an external world: the existence of a universe of any kind is so improbable that the only conceivable response is to believe that it does not actually exist. The existence of matter, in fact, would contradict
itself: Ex nihilo nihil fit is a (the?) fundamental law of matter. Nothing comes from nothing, hence matter cannot exist, hence the universe cannot exist.
Beyond this obvious limitation, there is also the problem of consciousness arising from unconscious matter, which is unexplained by and likely cannot be explained by science, as well as the sheer improbability of a stable universe that is “fine-tuned” to allow life to develop – all of this added on to the aforementioned 1 in 10 to the 2,685,000 power odds that life forms in this environmentally favorable location would procreate successfully for billions of years to eventually create you.
I am also inclined to believe that time cannot exist (however, this argument will be refuted by many, and a belief in the rationality of time should not be a hindrance to one’s belief in solipsism). A simple way to understand the illusion of time, for the purpose of brevity, is trying to imagine the same object being in two different moments: it is impossible, because otherwise it would not be the ‘same’ object: Object A is in Moment A, it cannot also be in Moment B since it is in Moment A. A slightly more developed explanation of this concept would read as follows: Person A sits on a bed and Person B sits on it the next night: it cannot be the ‘same’ bed, because that bed has Person A sitting on it. Person B would have to sit on a different bed, or else sit on top of Person A. These simple analogies suggest that time is a spurious concept which cannot exist, which by causal effect would imply that reality itself is a spurious concept which cannot exist.
One of the many supposed ‘refutations’ offered against solipsism is that it is highly presumptuous to assume that you are the only consciousness that exists. However, if only one consciousness exists, it is not possible to ‘be’ anything other than that consciousness, thus the argument is self-defeating. On the other hand, it is highly presumptuous to think that you are yourself when there are billions of other people
(and other non-human consciousnesses) that you arbitrarily are not.
Descartes, in a well known but misguided refutation, claimed that an ‘evil demon’ could not be deceiving him (into believing that what was in fact a product of his imagination could be interpreted as reality) because the demon would not give Descartes the power to think that he was being deceived. However, it is of course wildly unlikely that someone being deceived by an evil demon could reasonably claim to know how an all-powerful evil demon would act and behave, and it should also be noted that the evil demon, if there was one, was only giving Descartes the power to wonder if he was being deceived, not to know, which is the sort of game an evil demon would perhaps enjoy engaging in. Western philosophy would dismiss solipsism on account of this argument by Descartes for the next several hundred years.
A similarly misguided rebuttal of solipsism is the widely held belief that a single consciousness cannot create the works of Shakespeare, Homer, etc: in other words, someone else must have created them for them to exist. This is a facetious argument given that it is impossible discern the nature of thoughts, or to what extent they are capable of ‘imagining’ things, if there is nothing to compare them to or no known way of establishing what ‘thoughts’ really are (and there wouldn’t be – there wouldn’t be any
way of establishing what anything was, or where it was coming from). In my opinion, given that dreams often create scenarios which seem unknown to the observer, it is very possible that a solipsist could imagine the works of Shakespeare, et al.
Descartes also overlooks another obvious fact: it is, of course, highly unlikely that a ‘demon’ would exist at all in a true solipsistic scenario: the more rational explanation is that only the solipsist’s consciousness exists, not that an imaginary deity created it (speculating on the nature of imaginary deities would soon become Descartes’ raison d’etre, so it is not at all surprising that he adapted this childish and primitive line of thinking).
Ultimately, it is arguable that the most common refutation of solipsism is that if you ‘created’ the universe, you would have created a better one: you would be the president of the world, and you would be having sex with Shakira. This is a very anthropocentric perspective. There is no reason to suspect that a random, arbitrary source of consciousness would generate such pleasure as opposed to, say, extreme suffering, or anything in between. Additionally, anyone that creates a universe where they are president of the world and having sex with Shakira would quickly suspect that such a situation would not likely be a feasible reality, thus causing the individual suffering and defeating the purpose of creating such a universe in the first place.
Ultimately, as the logical errors in these refutations demonstrate, the reason most people choose not to believe in solipsism is not because there are any rational arguments against it: it is because they do not want to believe in it. It is an unsettling and melancholy philosophy. It provides no answers. It is, to use a popular statement of idiocy, ‘better’ for them to live their lives ‘as if’, so this is what tends to happen.
Perhaps the final refutation of solipsism is the God argument – specifically, a benevolent God with human-like morals. If God exists, this argument states, nothing is ‘improbable’ or an accident (except, possibly, the existence of such a god in the first place), hence there is no need to invent a fanciful theory such as solipsism to explain such non-improbabilities.
You exist because God wanted you to exist; the universe exists because God wanted it to exist, and consciousness exists because God wanted it to exist. Unfortunately, the very notion of such a God is ridiculous, and every religious belief system can be easily proven false (and many non-solipsists have done it). My intended audience should not need me to do so. Adherents to theologies do so not because they present valid philosophical ideas but rather because these theologies are comforting to them (or because they are brought up on it, or have a ‘spiritual experience’, etc.). Startlingly, over five billion people (and billions more deceased people) are religious believers. I am not aware of a single living person besides myself who is a solipsist.
I shall offer one brief note on religion: If you argue with a religious person, they will be very likely to tell you that their beliefs have little or nothing to do with logic: it is about what the believer ‘feels’ is right. This is a ridiculous manner of thinking, as millions of religious people ‘feel’ that various contradictory religions are correct. This essentially proves that spirituality is a natural human instinct rather than a connection with the divine: ultimately, a delusion of very little consequence.
I have more or less been a solipsist since I was ten. To the present day, no one has been able to successfully refute me, because there is no evidence with which to refute me with.
Humans know nothing. People will always believe what they want to believe. It takes them a very long time to discover what are very obvious truths.
Socrates was killed for saying that the Greek gods, which are now discussed only in mythology textbooks, did not exist. Galileo was jailed (house arrest) for claiming the Sun doesn’t revolve around the Earth. It took several thousand years for a human to ask why the universe exists at all (Leibniz did it in the 18th century – he eventually wandered into a similarly vapid theological territory as Descartes).
Perhaps it is time, then, to start with a blank slate and accept the blatantly obvious: that nothing exists at all.